Income requirements: what you need to know
When you apply for your spouse’s green card through marriage, the US citizen spouse will be asked to show that they have adequate means to financially support their spouse, so the intending immigrant spouse is not likely to become a public charge. You must submit an Affidavit of Support even if your foreign spouse has sufficient funds to support themselves, or will have a job upon arrival in the U.S.
The Affidavit of Support is a contract between the sponsor (US Citizen Spouse) and the U.S. government in which the sponsor promises to financially support their immigrant spouse if they are unable to support themselves. This responsibility remains until the immigrant spouse becomes a US citizen, can be credited with 40 qualifying quarters of work in the United States, departs the U.S., or passes away. Divorce does not end the sponsor’s obligations under Form I-864.
To show that you have adequate means of financial support as a sponsor, you must meet the minimum income requirements set forth by HHS. The income requirement is based upon the number of people in the sponsor’s household and are updated yearly.
If your income does not meet the minimum requirements, don’t worry – you have a few options! First, you can use income from relatives or dependents living in your household or listed on your most recent tax return. The household member would need to complete a separate form, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, in which they would also promise to financially support the intending immigrant spouse.
Alternatively, you can find a joint sponsor who would accept legal responsibility for supporting your spouse with you. The joint sponsor must be a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident living in the U.S., but they do not need to be a family member. Your joint sponsor would need to submit financial documents (taxes, paystubs, etc.) to show that they meet the minimum income requirements for their household size, and would also need to sign and submit an Affidavit of Support.
Finally, you can also use your assets, or your spouse’s assets, to meet the minimum income requirement. These assets used must convertible into cash within one year without hardship (ex: bank account, stocks, bonds etc.). The total value of your assets must be equal to three times the difference between your income and the current minimum income guidelines. For example, if you make $10,757 per year and the minimum income requirement is $20,575, the difference is $10,000. Therefore, you must provide $30,000 ($10,000 difference x 3) in assets to fulfil the minimum income requirements.
As a sponsoring spouse, it is important to discuss the minimum income requirements with your attorney early in your immigration process, to allow time to find a household member or joint sponsor if necessary. Feel free to contact an immigration attorney at Maged & Rost to set up a consultation if you have any further questions.